Madoka Magica: Video Game Roundup

November 19, 2011

Cover art for the doujin/fan-made Madoka Magica game.

Even if I love an anime franchise to death, I usually avoid its game spin-offs like the plague. (This probably because these games are traditionally subpar with some exceptions, such as Naruto’s well-received brawling series and a handful of others.) For me, it’s often a combination of clunky gameplay mechanics with losing what I loved about the series in translating it from its original medium. Their reviews are perpetually tarnished with “Might be good for fans, but there’s still problems x, y and z.” After many generations of so-so spin-offs, I often just gloss over announcements of upcoming anime-based games.

Until the Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica PSP game was announced for March 15 in Japan [oy vey, has that already been two months ago?], causing my hype gears to shift from apathetic to GIMME MADOKA GAMES. As the series’ officially licensed game, developed by Namco-Bandai Games and Nitroplus, it soon began singing its expensive siren song to my wallet.

The Madoka Magica anime make me believe that it could produce some really excellent game spin-offs. Some of this blind optimism could be because the series itself caught me off-guard: Earlier this year, I had already pigeon-holed it as another stereotypical magical girl anime, all about frilly pink justice and friendship, until I found three episodes in that it’s actually Fullmetal Alchemist in magical girl clothing—a distopian take on traditional magical girl tropes where nothing is as it initially seems. Everyone has their own subversive motives and the plot twists are delightfully unpredictable. I have a lot of affection for this series pulling off so many surprises and am eager to see what other spin-offs it might yield.

However, with Siliconera reporting that this title will be a dungeon-crawler where “you have to pay attention to the distance between your character and the enemies,”  my hopes for it have dimmed a little bit. Most of the thrill in watching Madoka Magica comes from the fast-paced, fight-to-the-death battle scenes, where survival depends on dodging attacks, running like a maniac and thinking on your feet—not standing in a square on a grid and carefully deliberating your next sequence of attacks. (Again, see below, as Grief Syndrome captures this especially well.)

Cover art for the official Madoka Magica game.

Madoka Magica has mechanics that are promising for JRPG gameplay: The series clearly outlines each magical girl’s strengths, weaknesses, special powers and weapon of choice, ripe for turning into combat-based statistics; the plot is compelling, heart-wrenching and conducive to multiple endings; and the series’ occurrences is neatly divided into a Persona-style split—going to school and socializing with classmates by day and, by night, fighting in hidden netherworlds chock-full of minions and crowned with a show-stopping boss. From what Siliconera reports, it seems the official game will be incorporating a lot of these aspects. I’m just not sold on turn- and grid-based battles being the crux of witch-hunting gameplay.

While a turn-based dungeon crawler is a surprising choice for the official game, fan-based Madoka Magica creations sprawl across other unexpected genres. There’s the sensible translation of an action platformer, but there’s some far-out Flash-based versions that extend from real-time strategy to rhythm. These fan-made tributes (and the one Bandai-Namco-made smartphone app) are listed below in no particular order, with the exception of Grief Syndrome, the obvious winner.

[If you’re still interested in watching the series, I suggest waiting to read about these games, as they are slightly spoiler-ish]

Grief Syndrome

Finally! The game I’ve been talking this whole post!

Capturing the essence of an anime series into an interactive experience is something I feel that anime games have always struggled with. But not Grief Syndrome, no way. This PC game reconstructs the nightmarish world of witch hunting perfectly. Everything was instantly familiar; it felt like a Madoka game should feel like. This beat-’em-up side-scroller is an intoxicating mix of everything I loved about the show, capturing the smallest details, such each girl’s movement and animations and enemies from the show, with apparent ease. It’s just the right degree of challenging, and the characters are very well-balanced, also true to their respective strengths, weaknesses and fighting styles in the show. Even though it was created by Japanese doujin game studio Twilight Frontier, it’s almost entirely in English and is very accessible to those who don’t speak Japanese.

At the start of a level, you select Madoka, Mami, Sayaka, Kyouko, Homura or Moemura and fight your way through several action/platform stages, which ends with fighting one of the witches from the anime series. There are alternate endings and, accurately and surprisingly (to me anyway), permadeath. If a girl dies during your run-through, she is gone until you clear the game and start a new round. This also affects which ending you get. Anyway, if you can figure out a way to get this game I would. The official game has a lot to live up to after playing this fan tribute. Oh, and Twilight Frontier keeps patching and improving it—there’s even multiplayer now! Check out the Puella Magi wiki for more info on this game. It’s updated often and very convenient.

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\


In spite of its surprising genre choice of real-time strategy, Incubator is probably my favorite flash-based Madoka game of the bunch listed here. It’s an odd concept, for sure: Magical girls appear and you move Kyuubey over to them to grant their wishes and turn them into fighting Puella Magi. At the same time, however, witches and their weaker versions, familiars, are spawning across the map. Once a girl becomes a Puella Magi, you drag her within range of a witch to fight it. It’s essentially magical girl resource management and all about placing your girls at the right place at the right time. Ultimately, you face Walpurgisnacht/Walpurgis Night, which is pretty challenging the first time through. Good luck! Play it here.

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

Little Big Planet 2: Madoka Magica Level

Uh, wow. Someone put a lot of time into this, and it definitely shows. This LBP level is a remix of the first real witch hunt in episode three of Madoka Magica, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It even mimics Mami’s artillery attacks, which seem to handle decently enough, but since I haven’t actually played this level, I can’t speak from experience. Just watch the video or give the level a whirl. Nice work, Enoch_Shaddai. (Unrelated: He/she has also made an Uncharted level.)

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

マミ☆まう (Mami to the Mouth)

You play DDR to save Mami. Ohhhh, how you think I’m joking. It’s half reflex-based fun, half lol-wut. Put those arrow keys to work and play here (press any key to start).

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

契約取付人!キュゥべえさん ゲーム編

If hitting girls who are dodging between pieces of cake with Kyuubey heads to form contracts with them isn’t weird enough, then there’s another kicker—the Nyancat song is looping in the background. The controls for aiming are wonky, but it’s fun for a couple playthroughs. At the end, your score is ranked according to a set of salaryman-based titles (I guess they chose to rate it with salaryman titles because Kyuubey’s work is also to form contracts?). The highest I got was kakarichou, chief clerk. Watch the craziness in the video below.

Unfortunately, this game has since disappeared from the Internet. Sorry D: I’ll put up a link if I find it.

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

Madoka/Final Fantasy III Mashup

Holy amazing. This homage to both series blends the best of epic FF3 boss battles with an excellently executed magical girl party in an epic 8-bit tribute to both series. I only watched the YouTube video above, but apparently it’s playable, too (I got scared off after the download link started to get a little sketchy; maybe a braver soul can confirm this?). Each character’s attacks are based off thorough and clever references to Madoka Magica with in a loveable FF3 throwback. Worth the watch. Dunno if the download is worth the potential viruses. : )

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

Throw the Gem

I’m including this game just for the fact that it takes one of the (most?) pivotal points of the series and boils it down to a simplistic one-shot Warioware-style game. I find that really interesting. Play it here.

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

Official Game:
Mami no Dokidoki Tiro Finale (Mami’s Heart-Pounding Tiro Finale)

To promote the official PSP Madoka Magica game, Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable, Bandai-Namco Games released a free smartphone game featuring Mami for iOS and Android in Japan. After 500 players hit a perfect score of 100,000 points (within the same day of the app’s release!), the box art for Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable was unveiled on the game’s official website.

I enjoyed playing it, but I don’t think I’m going to the practice into getting the perfect score. You play as the gun-summoning Mami, protecting Madoka and Sayaka from waves of minions and ultimately fighting against Charlotte, the witch from episode three. You hop among platforms, which provide different vantage points for shooting down enemies  that stream in from all angles, and try to chain your shots into combos to charge a meter that releases various special powers depending on how full it is. Make those shots count though—your Soul Gem meter diminishes with each attack, and the game ends if it reaches zero.

While there are some slower-paced sections, the levels definitely dokidoki moments where the screen is choked with enemies. The boss battle at the end of each is disappointing. It’s like fighting a wall that has hitpoints. Maybe the dokidoki-ness of the final battle is supposed to come from watching your dwindling Soul Gem meter and wondering if you’ll have enough magic to make it to the end of the fight? It’s not the kind of battle I was anticipating.

The official (Japanese) site for the smartphone game is here. If you have a Japanese iTunes account (or if not, you can get one here), you can download Bandai-Namco Games’ free game for iPhone or iPad here. I don’t have an Android device, so, er, good luck, Android users! Here’s the link to the game on the Android Market.

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\


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